By Shelby Brown–
U of L Professor Carol Hanchette died over fall break while hiking in Bighorn National Forest. Hanchette, an avid hiker, is remembered by her friends and colleagues as a dedicated educator.
“She was brilliant and a tremendously hard worker. She leaves a huge gap in our department. (She was) a real geographer’s geographer,” Geography and Geoscience department chair David Howarth said.
Hanchette was active in research. Her most recent grant from the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences was featured in Dean Kimberly Kempf-Leonard’s State of the College address.
“Dr. Hanchette was a terrific colleague and will be greatly missed,” Kempf-Leonard said.
Former Geography and Geoscience department chair Keith Mountain said Hanchette was deeply engaged with students, supplying endless energy to the department.
“She was just a really pleasant person to be around, always had something funny to say, life was always to be enjoyed,” Mountain said.
Mountain praised Hanchette’s growth with the graduate program, saying it flourished under her guidance.
“We’re not going to be able to replace Carol,” he said.
Several of Hanchette’s students spoke about their time in her class, the professor leaving a lasting impression on them.
“I could tell that she’s a really wonderful and passionate person. I think her passion really shined through on everything she does. She’s just goofy, but also very serious at the same time whenever she’s speaking about something she really loves,” U of L student Shelby Hatfield said.
Margaret Madden took two of Hanchette’s classes. Madden considers her one of her favorite professors.
“She’s just really amazing, she’s so intelligent and she’s had so many experiences in her life that it’s amazing to sit and listen to all of her stories and she’s so interesting because of that. She’s a really good teacher,” Madden said. “Whenever you go to class you’re excited because she always finds a way to tie everything together with her experiences and make you remember the material. She cares a lot about all of us.”
Kaitlin Smith remembers the values Hanchette instilled in her class.
“We’re just a family up here in Geography, so it’s hard today,” Smith said.
Johnson County Sheriff’s department received a call from Richard Cornelius, Hanchette’s hiking partner Oct. 9 around 5 p.m., reporting her missing. The two became separated and Cornelius spent two nights in the wilderness during a sudden snow storm. After the weather cleared, Cornelius returned to camp and found a note from Hanchette there.
“She was concerned enough for him that she started going out to find help at some point either Sunday night or during the snowstorm and got disoriented as well,” Sheriff Steve Kozisek said.
A team of 38 assembled to search the forest and an airplane. Hanchette’s body was found the next morning, the coroner ruled the cause of death hypothermia.
Kozisek said the trails Hanchette and Cornelius were on were not well defined. Hikers going missing happens sometimes.
“People miss trails, they get lost up there, it’s not common but it’s not unheard of either,” he said.
Weather patterns in the mountains are also erratic.
“We all feel bad about her loss and wish the results would’ve been different. Our thoughts and prayers are with her family now,” Kozisek said.